Crusaders edge past Force

The Canterbury Crusaders showed their championship qualities to climb off the canvas and beat the Western Force 29-24 in a pulsating Super 14 clash at Subiaco Oval in Perth on Sunday.

The Crusaders trailed 24-12 midway through the second half, but scored the last 17 points of the match to remain unbeaten in 2008 and claim top spot on the table.

While the Crusaders are unbeaten from four matches, the Force are 2-2 after dropping their first home game of the season.

It was a high-quality encounter, with nine tries scored as the momentum regularly switched between the sides.

The Force produced an impressive first half to lead 17-12 and seemed set for an upset win when the injury-plagued Lachlan McKay crossed for a try in the 49th minutes in his first game since 2006.

However, the six-time champions dug deep and turned their fortunes around with two tries in three minutes.

Ali Williams drove over the line to narrow the gap in the 54th minute, before a Kieran Read run ended with Andrew Ellis scoring in the 56th, with Dan Carter’s subsequent conversion levelling the scores.

In the 68th minute, a brilliant tap-on pass to Casey Laulala enabled him to score the winning try.

The Force pressed desperately in the dying moments, but their efforts were in vain as an errant pass by captain Nathan Sharpe went over the touchline to end the match.

The first half was highly entertaining with five tries.

It was the home side that opened the scoring, with David Pocock crossing in the corner in the 10th minute to give the Force a 5-0 lead.

The Crusaders struck back quickly, Carter piercing the defence from a scrum 22m out to score a try and converting it to give his side the lead.

Canterbury seemed to have been stung by the Force’s opening try and were on top in possession, although the Force threatened a try in the 19th minute, only for Drew Mitchell to knock on.

In the 27th minute, the Crusaders struck again, a Mose Tuiali’i run allowing Greg Somerville to bullock across the tryline in the corner and put his side ahead 12-5.

If the unbeaten Crusaders thought they had broken the resistance of the Force, they were proven wrong when Matt Giteau’s deft pass to the in-form Ryan Cross saw the former rugby league player burst through the Canterbury defence and score under the posts.

After Giteau converted, the home side reclaimed the lead in the 33rd minute, with a superb try that saw that ball pass through the hands of Scott Staniforth and Cross along the touch line before ending with a diving Richard Brown in the corner.

The Force might have extended their advantage before the break, with a try by Cameron Shepherd a minute before half-time disallowed for a forward pass.—AFP

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